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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The 2020 Electorate: Older, More Ethnically Diverse

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

  Anthony Cilluffo and Richard Fry at Pew:
We project that the 2020 election will mark the first time that Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate, accounting for just over 13% of eligible voters – slightly more than blacks. This change reflects the gradual but continuous growth in the Hispanic share of eligible voters, up from 9% in the 2008 presidential election and 7% in the 2000 election. The black eligible voter population has grown about as fast as the electorate overall, meaning their share has held constant at about 12% since 2000.
In raw numbers, a projected 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2020, compared with 30 million blacks. The population of Asians eligible to vote will reach an estimated 11 million in 2020, which is more than double the 5 million who were eligible to vote in 2000, accounting for 5% of year’s electorate.
Taken together, this strong growth among minority populations means that a third of eligible voters will be nonwhite in 2020, up from about a quarter in 2000. This increase is at least partially linked to immigration and naturalization patterns: One-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 election will have been born outside the U.S., the highest share since at least 1970.
...
Another important long-term trend is the overall aging of the electorate. In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate (23%) will be ages 65 and older, the highest such share since at least 1970. This reflects not only the maturation of the large Baby Boom generation but also increased life expectancy among older Americans.
Baby Boomers and older generations, who will be ages 56 and older next year, are expected to account for fewer than four-in-ten eligible voters in 2020. This is a significant change from 2000, when nearly seven-in-ten eligible voters (68%) were Boomers, Silents or members of the Greatest Generation (collectively, those ages 36 and older at the time). Even as recently as 2012, when the youngest Boomer was 48 years old, Boomer and older generations were about half of the electorate (49%).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Good Launch for Kamala Harris

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

Tal Axelrod at The Hill:
Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) town hall Monday night on CNN got the network its highest ratings ever for such an event with an individual election candidate, according to the network.

“In total viewers, the Town Hall averaged 1.957 million, a +75% advantage over CNN's prior four (1.119 million)," CNN said in a statement.

Harris’s presidential campaign was quick to tout the ratings on Twitter.
The California Democrat is hoping to capitalize on high early fundraising numbers and enthusiasm from the base before the Democratic primary field, which already includes a handful of other high-profile candidates, gets even more crowded.
It was reported last week that the Harris campaign raised more than $1.5 million in online donations in the 24 hours since she announced her candidacy for president. She also held a highly publicized rally Sunday to officially kick off her presidential bid.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who might have competed for California money and volunteers, announced yesterday that he is not running.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Policy Failures

As a result of reduced economic activity, CBO estimates, real (that is, inflation adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2018 was reduced by $3 billion (in 2019 dollars) in relation to what it would have been otherwise. (Such references are in calendar years or quarters unless this report specifies otherwise.) In the first quarter of 2019, the level of real GDP is estimated to be $8 billion lower than it would have been—an effect reflecting both the five-week partial shutdown and the resumption in economic activity once funding resumed.
From the National Association of Business Economists:
 “After a year of robust capital spending, business investment has cooled a bit, and expectations for the next three months slackened similarly,” added NABE President Kevin Swift, CBE, chief economist, American Chemistry Council. “Indeed, the capex story is really a tale of two cities. Fewer firms increased capital spending compared to the October survey responses, but the cutback appeared to be concentrated more in structures than in information and communication technology investments. “A large majority of respondents—84%—indicate that one year after its passage, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans,” continued Swift.
From the Energy Information Administration:
 EIA estimates that total 2018 U.S. coal production was 755 million short tons (MMst), 20 MMst less than in 2017 and 36% less than in the previous decade. In 2018, coal prices rose in three of the five major coal-producing regions, particularly the Northern and Central Appalachian regions. Although U.S. coal exports increased by about 10 MMst in 2018, volumes were not great enough to offset the decline in U.S. coal consumption, resulting in declining coal production
U.S. coal production and weekly spot steam coal prices

Monday, January 28, 2019

GOP Decline in California

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential raceThe forthcoming update will include a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  California is an important part of the story.

Mike Madrid at The Fresno Bee:
Unlike the wealthy and racially segregated suburbs in Orange County, north San Diego and the outskirts of Los Angeles, the Central Valley has neighborhoods with middle- and lower-income households with both Anglo and Latino surnames.
Because the Central Valley continues to suffer while its coastal neighbors thrive, it’s here that poses the greatest prospect for a Republican resurgence if the party could focus on its core message of jobs, opportunity and economic mobility.
...
The Fresno County Republican Party invited the controversial and inflammatory Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio to keynote an event just months before the midterm elections. This is the same person who was found by the U.S. Department of Justice to have engaged in the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history and it filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. And then in 2016 Arpaio was summarily removed from office by his constituents.

In other words, Arapaio was found to be unfit for office by the people who knew him best, but was found to be just right to keynote a Republican Party event in Fresno — a county that is only 30 percent white.

If Republicans in California are looking for a way back to relevance, dropping the focus on race-based politics is a good place to start. If that change can’t happen in the Central Valley, it’s not likely to happen anywhere.
Laurel Rosenhall at CALMatters:
Not that anyone need more evidence of the Republican Party’s collapse in California. Democrats, in the last election, flipped seven GOP seats in the U.S. House and eight more in the state Legislature. They’ve swept every statewide office since 2010.
But more evidence emerged anyway today, when Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego announced that he had switched parties and is now a Democrat. A reliably moderate Republican during his six years in the Legislature, Maienschein said his own views had moved to the left as his party veers hard right.

“Donald Trump has led the Republican party to the extreme on issues that divide our country. But its leadership is not the only reason for changing my party affiliation,” Maienschein said, citing his support for gay rights, abortion access, organized labor, gun control and immigration.
...
The assemblyman’s switch is the latest sign that the style of Republican politics emanating from the White House does not play well on the left coast. Last month, California saw another high-profile GOP defection when Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said she had re-registered without party affiliation following the tumultuous confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Trump Has Employed Undocumented Workers

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

In 1980, under pressure to begin construction on what would become his signature project, Donald J. Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands.
(The concrete came from the Mafia.)

They had spent years on the staff of Donald Trump’s golf club, winning employee-of-the-month awards and receiving glowing letters of recommendation.
Some were trusted enough to hold the keys to Eric Trump’s weekend home. They were experienced enough to know that, when Donald Trump ordered chicken wings, they were to serve him two orders on one plate.
But on Jan. 18, about a dozen employees at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., were summoned, one by one, to talk with a human resources executive from Trump headquarters.
During the meetings, they were fired because they are undocumented immigrants, according to interviews with the workers and their attorney. The fired workers are from Latin America.
The sudden firings — which were previously unreported — follow last year’s revelations of undocumented labor at a Trump club in New Jersey, where employees were subsequently dismissed. The firings show Trump’s business was relying on undocumented workers even as the president demanded a border wall to keep out such immigrants.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Bad Day for Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss public perceptions of TrumpAfter yesterday's cave-in on the shutdown and the arrest of Roger Stone, those perceptions are probably not going to turn positive right now.

As Jonathan Swan puts it: He blinks; he disappoints the people who still love him; he gets no credit for reopening the government, given he already took credit for the shutdown; and we’re back where we started after 35 days of pointlessness.The shutdown not only wasted a month of Trump's presidency, but it accelerates a months-long losing streak:
Trump is being outfoxed and outplayed by Speaker Pelosi:
  • He ended the shutdown without getting anything obvious in return, after caving earlier in the week to her refusal to hold the State of the Union address in the House chamber.
  • "Pelosi 2, Trump 0," a senior administration official instantly texted me.
  • Drudge's banner, with a Trump pic: "WALLED IN."
  • Swan tweeted: "A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: 'Trump looks pathetic...he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.'"
  • Maggie Haberman tweeted: "Not only did Trump alienate moderates with a shutdown, he upset his core 35 percent by caving — and, most significantly for 2020, did it all as Democrats held together on a major issue fight."
Yesterday's indictment of Roger Stone references "senior Trump Campaign officials," "a senior Trump campaign official" and "a high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign":
  • A "senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional [WikiLeaks] releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign."
The midterm results left Trump weaker in battleground states than many people in his orbit seem to realize.
  • As Jim VandeHei and I pointed out in November: "[A]ll the big trends are working against Trump and the GOP."

Friday, January 25, 2019

January 25 Is Off to a Bad Start for Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

The FBI arrested Roger Stone this morning.

The indictment.

Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, John Wagner and Manuel Roig-Franzia at WP:
Stone was charged with seven counts, including one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering. After the early morning arrest at his home, he appeared briefly in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wearing a blue polo shirt, jeans, and steel cuffs on his wrists and ankles. The judge ordered him released on a $250,000 bond.
...
With Stone’s indictment, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has struck deep inside Trump’s inner circle, charging a long-standing friend of the president. The court filing charges Stone sought to gather information about hacked emails at the direction of an unidentified senior Trump campaign official, and then engaged in extensive efforts to keep secret the details of those efforts.
Trump is reportedly about to cave on a short-term CR. AP reports:.
Intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and widespread disruptions across the federal government instilled new urgency Friday into efforts by President Donald Trump and Congress to bring a resolution to the 35-day partial shutdown.
The world's busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday.
...
In an embarrassment to Trump, the Democratic proposal got two more votes Thursday than the GOP plan, even though Republicans control the chamber 53-47. Six Republicans backed the Democratic plan, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who's clashed periodically with the president.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening the government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he's demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he'd long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to government workers who are either working without pay or being forced to stay home

Liberal Dark Money in 2018


Michael Beckel at Issue One:
The 2018 midterm election marked the first time liberal dark money groups outspent their conservative counterparts since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010, according to a new Issue One analysis of data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Combined, dark money groups spent approximately $150 million during the 2018 election cycle, with liberal dark money groups accounting for about 54 percent of that sum. At the same time, conservative dark money groups accounted for about 31 percent of all dark money spending, and groups classified as bipartisan or nonpartisan accounted for about 15 percent. One liberal dark money group — Majority Forward — alone accounted for about $1 of every $3 in dark money spending in 2018.
The total amount of dark money spending since the Citizens United decision that has been reported to the nation’s top election regulator has now climbed to at least $960 million, and it is on track to exceed $1 billion during the 2020 election, when control of both Congress and the White House are at stake.
...
Conservative groups had long dominated the dark money game. As recently as the 2016 election cycle, conservative dark money groups outspent liberal ones by a factor of nearly 4-to-1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And in 2010, the first election in the aftermath of Citizens United, conservative dark money groups outspent liberal ones by roughly 11-to-1.
...
The liberal group Majority Forward ranked as the top-spending dark money group ahead of the 2018 midterm election. It reported about $46 million in political spending to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) — accounting for about $1 of every $3 in dark money spent during the midterms.
Majority Forward does not disclose its funders, but obscure public records reviewed by Issue One show that, in the past, its donors have included labor unions such as the National Education Association, companies such as CVS Health Corp., nonprofits such as the Environmental Defense Action Fund, and political committees such as the political action committee of Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.
Federal disclosures show that Majority Forward was active in 10 high-profile Senate races in 2018, and it was the top-spending outside group in one of them — Montana. There, incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester narrowly prevailed over Republican challenger Matt Rosendale as super PACs and dark money groups combined to spend about $35 million to influence the race, with Majority Forward alone spending about $4.2 million.
This opaque spending spree catapulted Majority Forward up the rankings of the top all-time dark money groups. Since it was formed in June of 2015, Majority Forward has spent about $56 million in elections — enough to rank it as the No. 5 top dark money group since Citizens United. That’s up from the No. 17 spot two years earlier. (It narrowly missed making the top 15 list that Issue One published in September 2018 of the top dark money groups active between 2010 and 2016.)
...
Read more about the top 15 dark money groups that accounted for more than 75 percent of all dark money spending since the Citizens United decision.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Many Americans Don't Know That Trump Was Born Rich

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss public perceptions of Trump.

Jared McDonald, David Karol, and Lilliana Mason have an article at Political Behavior titled “`An Inherited Money Dude from Queens County': How Unseen Candidate Characteristics Affect Voter Perceptions." The abstract:
We examine the effect of biographical knowledge on voters’ assessments of leaders. Prior research has shown that voters infer traits from candidate characteristics such as race, gender and incumbency, which are visible to even poorly-informed voters. Given voters’ limited knowledge, we argue that less-visible attributes may be easily misperceived, possibly affecting overall assessments of candidates. Focusing on President Trump, we find via a national survey that many Americans are unaware that he was born into great wealth. This misperception increases support for Trump, mediated through beliefs that he is both empathetic and good at business. We supplement our observational analysis with an experiment treating respondents with information regarding the role Trump’s father played in his career. This information leads respondents to rate the president more negatively on both empathy and business ability. These findings suggest that correcting information about candidate characteristics can change the minds of even loyal partisans

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Trump and California

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential raceThe forthcoming update will include a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  California is an important part of the story.

[T]his disaster was Trump, all Trump and nothing but Trump.
This is apparent by examining one of the most interesting factoids about this election. Had Republican Congressional candidates ran as well as their party’s candidate for governor, John Cox, they would have saved four of the seven seats they lost.
That is because Cox actually carried the districts of defeated Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), GOP candidate Young Kim, (Northern Orange County), Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach). Cox also outran two of the other three Republicans who lost Rep. Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) and Diane Harkey (Orange-San Diego counties).
The California Target Book has unearthed a few other interesting tidbits about the November election. The gas tax repealer (Proposition 6), on which Republicans placed such hope, actually carried every single GOP-held congressional district, including all seven districts that they lost. Steve Poizner, the former Republican insurance commissioner running for his old job as a no party preference, carried 20 Congressional districts, including all but one of the 14 GOP districts.
There is only one way to read these results: if you could be tied to Trump, you were a goner. Trump, rather than simply the party label, was the key to the Republican disaster.
Trump is a gift to progressive Democrats.  The election resulted a extra-large Democratic supermajorities in the legislature.  Jeremy White at Politico:
“We’re going to need more Democrats than Republicans to kill a bill,” said Adam Keigwin, a former chief of staff who’s now a lobbyist for Mercury. “It’s clearly a different dynamic that we haven’t had before that everybody has to adjust to.”
The new dynamics have national implications, given the size of California’s economy and the state’s national influence on a range of policy areas, including energy, health care and consumer regulation. And in the coming months they’re likely to shape the outcomes of leading issues like worker classification, housing production, clean energy goals and an ambitious health care coverage push.
As California has shaded ever-bluer in recent years, big business has adapted by shifting resources towards electing friendly Democrats rather than sidelined Republicans. The top-two primary system has accelerated that trend: it’s now common to see groups backed by real estate, pharmaceutical, oil and other industries spend millions on a chosen candidate when two Democrats are battling it out in the general election, in addition to spending to boost Democrats over Republicans in key districts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Rudy Tuesday

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

Jim VandeHei at Axios:
In remarks that he yesterday tried to walk back as "hypothetical," Giuliani admitted Trump's team may have been working on — and updating him on — a potential Trump Tower in Moscow all the way up to Election Day.

This possibility is a huge deal for four reasons:
  • Giuliani suggested that then-candidate Trump was aware of — and discussed — the deal far longer than previously disclosed. Giuliani, relaying a quote from the president that hardly sounds hypothetical, said in an interview with the N.Y. Times that Trump had told him the Trump Tower Moscow discussions were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won."
  • That would mean Trump was being untruthful or highly misleading with his repeated campaign denials of any Moscow business dealings, as late as his Oct. 9 debate with Hillary Clinton: "I don’t deal there."
  • This would mean Trump was cooking up a business deal with Vladimir Putin’s Russia while calling for warmer relations with Russia and questioning the U.S. role in Putin’s nemesis, NATO.
  • And Russian officials would have had negative information to hold over Trump, during the election and after. They would have known Trump was misleading the American people about his Moscow deal.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Vipers and Riffraff


At The Guardian, Lloyd Green reviews Team of Vipers, a tell-all by former Trump staffer Cliff Sims.
Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, possessed a casual attitude toward truth-telling when it came to the press, according to the book. In Sims’ words, Sanders “didn’t press as hard as she could have for the rock-bottom truth”, adding that her “gymnastics with the truth would tax even the nimblest of prevaricators, and Sanders was not that”. At least Sims believes that Sanders was not a “natural liar”.

Likewise, Kellyanne Conway, the high priestess of “alternative facts”, comes in for her share of incoming. Sims spills the beans on Conway repeatedly trashing Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer to the mainstream media, while recounting to the press ostensibly private conversations with the president.
While none of this is exactly news, it places Conway in the realm of performance artists. Think Roger Stone, without the special counsel breathing down her neck, a Nixon tattoo on her back or an organic attachment to the president. Who can forget Conway’s visual perorations on the word “collusion”? As Sims put it, “Kellyanne stood in a class of own in terms of her machinations – I had to admire her sheer gall.”
At Axios, Mike Allen excerpts Chris Christie's book, Let Me Finish:
Donald so urgently needed the right people around him and a solid structure in place. ... Far too often, he’s found himself saddled with the riffraff. ...
Instead of high-quality, vetted appointees for key administration posts, he got the Russian lackey and future federal felon Michael Flynn as national security adviser. He got the greedy and inexperienced Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
He got the high-flying Tom Price as health and human services secretary. He got the not-ready-for-prime-time Jeff Sessions as attorney general, promptly recusing himself from the Justice Department’s Russian-collusion probe. He got a stranger named Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. ...
He got the Apprentice show loser Omarosa Manigault in whatever Omarosa’s job purported to be. (I never could figure that one out.) ... Too few Kellyanne Conways. A boatload of Sebastian Gorkas. Too few Steven Mnuchins.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Five Years Ago, Conservatives Were Okay with Cancelling the State of the Union

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.  In response to the shutdown, Speaker Pelosi suggested postponing the State of the Union, or having POTUS deliver it in writing.  Trump supporters denounced her statement. But a few years ago, some conservatives suggested the same thing.

On November 20, 2014, Joel Pollak wrote at Breitbart:
Congressional Republicans are searching for ways–short of impeachment or shutting down the government–to respond to President Barack Obama’s seizure of arbitrary power over immigration law and enforcement. One way would be to cancel the State of the Union address next year, so that the elected representatives of the people do not have to listen to, or applaud, a man who is violating his oath of office and governing as a tyrant.
On November 21, 2014, Ace of Spades blogged:
Yesterday we saw a number of ideas floated about how to respond....rescission, lawsuits, de-fundingand withholding votes on nominees to name a few on the table. There's one idea I'd like to add that is in many ways symbolic but that would focus the nation on the seriousness of this problem, do not invite Obama to address a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address.
The Constitution simply requires that "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Nothing requires that he do so in person. The modern in person State of The Union dates back to Woodrow Wilson but Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon all gave written reports as was the custom from Thomas Jefferson to Wilson.
And Presidents don't simply show up whenever they please to address the Congress, they must be formally invited. That's where Boehner and McConnell can strike a blow for the legislature...simply don't invite him.
On November 25, 2014, Jeremy Peters reported at NYT:
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mueller Office Replies to Buzzfeed


Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian at WP:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.
The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Obsruction?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier at Buzzfeed:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.


From the first article of impeachment against Nixon:
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:
On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.
The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:
making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tax Fraud Timeline

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal In a landmark article last year, NYT revealed that much of Trump's fortune rests on tax fraud.

Accountant Ken Boyd sums it up at Tax Fraud By The Numbers: The Trump Timeline

Trump Tax Fraud Timeline

Trump Impact: A Lump of Coal

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and key indicators are breaking bad.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.
...
 Mr. Hassett said on Tuesday that the administration now calculates that the shutdown reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts — the cumulative effect of lost work from contractors and furloughed federal employees who are not getting paid and who are investing and spending less as a result. That means that the economy has already lost nearly half a percentage point of growth from the four-week shutdown. (Last year, economic growth for the first quarter totaled 2.2 percent.)

 More U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term, despite the Republican’s efforts to prop up the industry to keep a campaign promise to coal-mining states.
In total, more than 23,400 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation were shut in 2017-2018 versus 14,900 MW in 2009-2012, according to data from Reuters and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Trump has tried to roll back rules on climate change and the environment adopted during the Obama administration to fulfill pledges to voters in states like West Virginia and Wyoming.
But the second highest year for coal shutdowns was in Trump’s second year, 2018, at around 14,500 megawatts, following a peak at about 17,700 megawatts in 2015 under Obama.
One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.
The number of U.S. coal plants has continued to decline every year since coal capacity peaked at just over 317,400 MW in 2011, and is expected to keep falling as consumers demand power from cleaner and less expensive sources of energy.
Stephen Gandel at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump and the Republicans’ tax cut is proving to be vastly more generous for corporate America, and vastly more expensive for taxpayers, than expected. Worse, the Trump Slump is erasing the bump the stock market received from the tax cuts. And evidence is mounting that the promised economic boost isn’t materializing. The administration’s signature political achievement is being eclipsed by disarray over trade, immigration and a government shutdown.

First, the headline number: $600 billion, at least. That’s how much more than expected I estimate the companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to save. It is also how much more the tax cut is likely to add to the national debt if it runs as planned for 10 years. The total savings for all of corporate America will be well into the 13 figures.

In late 2017, soon before Congress passed the tax cut — which reduced the U.S. corporate rate to a flat 21 percent from a previous marginal rate that topped out at 35 percent — the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years. White House officials criticized that estimate as being too high. In fact, it wasn’t nearly high enough. My current estimate, now that companies have completed 2018, is nearly $2 trillion, and that’s just for the S&P 500. That’s nearly $400 billion more than I calculated in May. And the actual bill could rise even more while the lasting benefits are still pretty questionable.

Shutdown and the Base


 Grace Sparks, at CNN:
During the longest government shutdown in US history, President Donald Trump has been losing support among those who may be his strongest supporters -- white Americans who don't have college degrees.

Among this group, only 45% said they approved of the job Trump is doing as President, according to a recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That is the lowest level of support among this subgroup by 1 percentage point in CNN's surveys and a dip from a poll conducted in early December, before the partial shutdown, when 54% of whites without college degrees approved of his job as President and 39% disapproved.
The dip is notable since among whites who hold college degrees, Trump's ratings are largely unchanged in the last month and remain sharply negative -- 64% disapprove and 32% approve.
This trend is backed up by a new Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. Approval for the President remained somewhat stable between its mid-December poll and now among whites without college degrees (down from 56% to 53%), but disapproval increased from 37% to 43%. That is going from a net 19% positive approval to a net 10% for Trump, a 9-point loss.
Domenico Montanaro at NPR:
A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds Trump's approval rating down and his disapproval rating up from a month ago. He currently stands at 39 percent approve, 53 disapprove — a 7-point net change from December when his rating was 42 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove.

And the movement has come from within key portions of his base. He is:
  • Down significantly among suburban men, a net-positive approval rating of 51-to-39 percent to a net-negative of 42 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. That's a net change of down 18 percentage points;
  • Down a net of 13 points among white evangelicals, from 73-to-17 percent approve to 66-to-23 percent approve;
  • Down a net of 10 points among Republicans, from 90-to-7 percent approve to 83-to-10 percent;
  • Down marginally among white men without a college degree, from 56-to-34 percent approve to 50-to-35 percent approve, a net change downward of 7 points.

Giuliani Admits Possible Campaign Collusion

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Caroline Kelly at CNN:
Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he never denied President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, only that the President himself was not involved in collusion.
In an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Cuomo Prime Time," Giuliani, a former New York mayor and Trump's attorney, said he doesn't know if other people in the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race.
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign," Giuliani said.
He added, "I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC."

It's another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A person familiar with the matter told CNN last week that Manafort, while serving as Trump's campaign chairman, tried to send internal polling data from the Trump campaign with two Kremlin-supporting Ukrainian oligarchs through
At WP, Aaron Blake lists the evolving non-denial denials. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Collusion Update: NATO

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Julian E. Barnes and Helene Cooper at NYT:
There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.
Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States.
Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.
At a July 12 NATO meeting,   NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg surprised Trump.
Backing Mr. Trump’s position, Mr. Stoltenberg pushed allies to increase their spending and praised the United States for leading by example — including by increasing its military spending in Europe. At that, according to one official who was in the room, Mr. Trump whipped his head around and glared at American officials behind him, surprised by Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks and betraying ignorance of his administration’s own spending plans.
Mr. Trump appeared especially annoyed, officials in the meeting said, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her country’s military spending of 1 percent of its gross domestic product.
By comparison, the United States’ military spending is about 4 percent of G.D.P., and Mr. Trump has railed against allies for not meeting the NATO spending goal of 2 percent of economic output. At the summit meeting, he surprised the leaders by demanding 4 percent — a move that would essentially put the goal out of reach for many alliance members. He also threatened that the United States would “go its own way” in 2019 if military spending from other NATO countries did not rise.
During the middle of a speech by Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump again broke protocol by getting up and leaving, sending ripples of shock across the room, according to American and European officials who were there. But before he left, the president walked behind Ms. Merkel and interrupted her speech to call her a great leader. Startled and relieved that Mr. Trump had not continued his berating of the leaders, the people in the room clapped.
Reagan foresaw the kinds of sentiments that Trump has been voicing. From a 12/7/88 speech to AEI:
 I'm troubled by something else as well. The 1980's have been the glory years of the NATO alliance. The Soviet deployment of intermediate-range missiles presented NATO with its greatest challenge since the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the alliance not only survived but was vindicated by the signing of the INF treaty in Washington 1 year ago tomorrow. The NATO alliance is the best example we have to show the less fortunate peoples of the world how freedom and democracy create friendship and comity between peoples and nations. But 40 years after the North Atlantic Treaty, there are still some who question the alliance. Thus we hear, just months after the destruction of the first intermediate-range missile, that somehow the United States is being mistreated by our friends and allies. The argument they use is that our allies are not sharing the burden of their own defense equitably.
I agree that our NATO allies could be sharing the burden better. But we must also solve our economic disputes more fairly. But we must always remember the very real burden our allies bear that we never will. We must remember our allies perform a role that geography has forced upon them. They are literally on the front lines for the West. Our fortunate geography has kept the wars of the 20th century well away from the American mainland, but in Europe the memory is as fresh as the memories of a 50-year-old and the tales of a grandfather. Their soldiers, their children, their homes, their civilization itself hang in the balance every day. We cannot, we must not, forget this. And we should not give in to the temptation to transmute a small difference in a historic relationship into a major disagreement that might end up damaging the greatest foreign policy success of the postwar era.